Our jian bing

Our jian bing

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

Sadly, it’s impossible to make ‘authentic’ jian bing at home; it requires car noise, vehicle fumes and general kerbside clatter in order for them to really taste good — not to mention the skill needed. Versions of this breakfast-time pancake abound and it’s particularly prevalent in Beijing. We’ve eaten our fill of them all over China, but our absolute favourite is made by the man who appears early each morning on Sichuan Middle Road in Shanghai, right near the budget Shijia Hotel. His has just the right balance of egg, chewiness, sweet hoisin, crisp lettuce and chilli.


Quantity Ingredient
110g plain flour
90g millet flour
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
vegetable oil, for cooking
6 eggs, beaten
5 spring onions, finely sliced
chilli sauce, to serve
16-20 butter lettuce leaves
3 chinese fried dough sticks, finely sliced on the diagonal, (optional)
2 handfuls coriander leaves


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 teaspoons ginger, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
125ml hoisin sauce


  1. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat, then add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the hoisin sauce and 2½ tablespoons water and stir to combine well. Remove from the heat.
  2. Combine the flours and salt in a bowl, then add 375 ml water. Whisk to combine well, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons water if the mixture is too thick — it should have a creamy consistency.
  3. Brush a 16 cm heavy-based frying pan with oil and place over a medium heat. Pour about 60 ml of batter into the pan, spreading it as quickly as you can to the edge of the pan (a pastry scraper is the best thing to use for this). Pour a little of the egg over the top and spread it over the surface, allowing the egg to run into any holes or torn parts in the batter, to fill them. Scatter some of the spring onions over the egg, then cook for about 3 minutes, or until the egg just begins to set. Flip the pancake over and cook for another minute, then turn it out onto a plate. Cover loosely with foil and keep warm in a low oven. Repeat with the remaining batter, egg and spring onions.
  4. Spread some of the sauce and chilli sauce over each pancake, to taste. Place a few lettuce leaves and some slices of fried dough sticks, if using, on the pancakes and scatter with some coriander, then roll up or fold loosely and serve.
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